Fierce competition for fewer blue mussels as big fishermen squeeze out rivals – The Post

Fierce competition for fewer blue mussels as big fishermen squeeze out rivals

Catches of the once fairly ubiquitous shellfish have dropped dramatically over the last 20 years, and those that are there are being gobbled up by the ‘fish barons’

Don’t be selfish when it comes to the shellfish, small fishermen plead (photo: InspiredImages/Pixabay)
April 9th, 2019 3:47 pm| by Stephen Gadd

Last week, the fisheries minister, Eva Kjer Hansen, was called upon to explain a practice that seems to have been going on for some time that allows a handful of ‘fish barons’ privileged access to a number of Danish mussel beds.

For ten years or more fishermen on the east coast of Jutland have been asking permission to fish for mussels in the Great Belt, but have always been refused.

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Shellfish numbers are meanwhile declining. Statistics collected by the national statistics keepers Danmarks Statistik reveal that the amount of blue mussels caught by Danish fishermen has halved compared to 1996: from more than 80 million kilos to under 40 million.

Blue mussel fishing alone represented a value of 52 million kroner in 2018, compared to a total value of 3.5 billion kroner for all the fish landed by Danish trawlers.

Muscling in
At the same time, the authorities have permitted some of the country’s largest mussel fishermen to catch mussels several months on the trot in selected areas as part of its so-called ‘research fishing’, reports Berlingske.

One trawler alone managed to haul in mussels worth around 1 million kroner in the spring of 2018, and this was not counted as part of its quota as the fishing came under the heading of research.

This has led to criticism of the minister as there have previously been similar allegations that ‘fish barons’ have been allowed to snap up a disproportionate amount of fishing quotas.

Bedding in new rules
“There’s been no system concerning research fishing, so I’ve decided to bring in new rules in this area. Now, fishermen can look forward to clear guidelines, transparency and uniform treatment,” the minister said in a written reply to Berlingske.

From 2016-2018 mussel fishing in the Great Belt has been taking place with no clear rules and procedures and, besides a selected few, other fisherman have not known about ‘research fishing’ or have not been given the possibility to take part.